Maybe we should rethink how we teach history

I was just thinking about the teaching of history. Since knowledge is built by connecting new insights to ones that already exist, maybe we are teaching history backward in schools.

Maybe we should start with something a student knows and then go backward instead of starting in the distant past and coming forward.

Photo by Katerina Holmes from Pexels

For instance, what if a world history class this fall started with the non-war that’s really was war in Afghanistan. Kids have been hearing a lot about Afghanistan, so they have a point of reference. Talk about the evacuation, but go back to what we tried to accomplish there — dealing with the terrorism behind 9/11 and then our efforts to build a somewhat democratic state. Then you could go back from 9/11 and explain how and why militant Islam arose.

You get the idea. The hard part would be getting high school history teachers to try to be honest with presenting recent events because; like the rest of us, they have their opinions. But this is already a problem. Many of us raised in the South were educated with false notions about the cause of the Civil War — states rights, not the real cause of slavery. So current opinions already have an impact.

Just an idea, but there’s a reason many kids don’t like history in school and one is that it doesn’t seem to matter to their current lives. Good history teachers know this and help students make the connections even when starting with Roman history or the European migration to the Americas.

History is so very important. It is one of the few ways we can gain understanding beyond our years — literally.


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